Golf Course Architecture: Issue 57 - July 2019

52 FEATURE OPT IMI S ING VALUE Written by Adam Lawrence Renovation on a shoestring T he storied Merion club in Philadelphia has just reopened its East course, regarded for many years as one of the ten best in the United States, after a two-year renovation led by Gil Hanse. The project has been one of the quietest major course redos I can remember – neither club nor architect has shown any interest in PR throughout the project. So we do not know for certain what it has cost; but the numbers that have been rumoured are quite vast – one suggestion I heard was a budget of US$18 million. Merion, doubtless, can well afford such a sum, and it is by no means the only high-end American club to sign up for an extremely expensive course refresh. But for the overwhelming majority of golf clubs the world over, seven or eight figure projects are no more than pie in the sky. Sensible club managers well know the dangers of loading a balance sheet with debt, and members, in the current super- competitive club market, are less likely than they have ever been to sign up to large assessments for capital expenditure like course works. Architect Colton Craig, who only formed his own practice this year, with the idea of targeting this lower cost renovation market, puts it well. “Over the last five to ten years we have seen a massive overall and renovation boom of the ‘blue blood’ clubs and high- end country clubs across America,” he explains. “It is my belief that in the coming years many of the mid-level country clubs and municipal golf courses will also reinvest into their golf courses, but with much lower access to funding. This is a large reason why I decided to start my own firm back in February. Many of today’s established architects will not be interested in a US$400,000 renovation budget when they have been making that amount in a design fee. I am calling it ‘Blue-Collar Golf Architecture’. Nothing overly fancy or elaborate, but solving real problems for the clients and their customers. This will create a market entry opportunity for architects like myself. “Many courses were built from the 70s to the 90s and are desperate for a blue-collar renovation. Far too many of these clubs have 120,000 square feet of bunkers when the superintendent A renovation is made easier if a club can afford a multi-million pound project. But for most, these projects that see almost all course features dug up and rebuilt are no more than pie in the sky, says Adam Lawrence